Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Gray misses out as Cummings and Steyn called up

Kyle Steyn - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

After very good performances in the PRO14 final loss to Leinster, Glasgow’s Kyle Steyn and Scott Cummings have today been announced as the two final names in Gregor Townsend’s wider World Cup training squad.

It’s a big call to leave out a player with the pedigree of Richie Gray who has been back playing with Toulouse, but Townsend must feel that the extremely promising Cummings (22) is finally stepping up to the mark after forming a strong partnership with Jonny Gray for Glasgow late in the season.

Steyn (25) was always the most likely candidate to receive the spare backs place with none of his competitors (Matt Scott, Mark Bennett) in action this month. Nevertheless, it represents something of a meteoric rise from potential 7s-slash-academy prospect to potential internationalist.

Both players are currently uncapped.

140 Responses

  1. Both deserve it – there are always going to be people left out.

    Further call-ups are likely before the World Cup and it’s probably better to get these young guys in the squad and up to speed, plus give them a run out, then to call the likes of Gray in later as he will be able to fit in quicker and is already a known quantity.

  2. Sorry but Townsend is wrong – Cummings is one of the form locks but R Gray is our best lock and he’s been in great form.

    Towsnend’s arrogance will be his downfall.

    1. Disagree on the summation of your point. Richie’s form is not even close to what Cummings has been doing for the past 3 months – great player he has been though and it is good to see him get back, but Cummings foot work, his appetite for work, his timing and his ability to consistently get over the gain line mark him out for me as a potential starter let alone squad player. He has hit heights in the last 3 months that I would say Toolis and Gilchrist (fine players they are in their own right) have NEVER hit. I actually think the argument could justifiably be should R. Gray be there ahead of Gilchrist or Toolis who both have finished the season comparatively meekly

      Also I want a coach that has arrogance – He is ultimately accountable so must absolutely pick what he believes is the best team.

      1. I think it is actually quite a positive sign Townsend picking Cummings over Gray. We have all had our gripes on here about GT picking players on their name rather than form (eg Seymour when he was in his rut) so it is good to see him doing it the other way around.

        It is a great opportunity for these two but I would be surprised if either made the final cut (barring a few injuries).

        Steyn’s versatility is on his side but I don’t see him jumping ahead of Huw Jones or Hutchinson for the 13 shirt or Graham/Kinghorn/Maitland/Seymour for a wing slot.

      2. I can see him going with Hutchinson and Steyn. As much as I would have thought it unthinkable to drop Jones he’s barely played of late.

        Steyn and Hutchinson would give you a great blend.

        Hutchinson is your magician, capable of unlocking defences and I can him and Finn causing havoc with our back 3 being put in left, right and centre. He was awesome against Exeter at the weekend, really impressive.

        Steyn is an extremely effective alternative in that he’s big and runs hard and straight.

      3. Give it a rest – Gray has been in excellent form.

        Cummings turned it on in the last 4wks – that added to an excellent season rightly has him in the squad.

        My issue isn’t actually with Cummings being selected as I think he’s now better than Toolis and Gilchrist.

      4. So you would drop one of Toolis or Gilchrist who have been in decent form for Scotland and Edinburgh for years for a guy who has been sitting on the bench for a few weeks after a long term injury? I fully appreciate that Richie has been an incredible asset for Scottish rugby (and the only capped lion for bloody years) and I would have thought it would have been enough to get him into the training squad but other than his form of 3 years+ ago I can’t really see an argument for having him in over any of the others.

      5. Scotty

        Gray hasn’t been sitting on the bench – he starts for Toulouse – favourites for the T14.

        Toolis and Gilchrist are referred to as decent – hardly a glowing reference.

        I thought Cummings outshone Ryan on Sat.

      1. No – this weegie/embra bias stuff is daft IMO.

        I think he picks players he knows best and that ends up being selections like Wilson and Horne – but I dont think he favours either side.

      2. It is easy to overlook a man who is successful in France over local presence.

        Gray at 6ft 10 and 126kg has lasted 6 years (1 longer than Toonie) in the Top 14.

        Cummings at 6ft 6 and 116kg ,is unlikely to ever have the physical presence for France.

        The big question is this ? do we rate a physical giant , a hardened professional at the height of his career, playing in a tough league, over a talented ,young , agile second row who is not yet ,consistently first pick at his club.

        I cannot see any of our locks being capable of intimidating the opposition. I think we need a big Jim type ( and he was only 6ft 8) in the mix. I cannot think of a taller scottish lock in recent times than Richie Gray.

        Toonie is still fixated with fitness, agility running rugby, which is great, if you can win and avoid being bullied off the ball. IMO , it is a bit early to exclude the options Gray brings.

      3. “Only 6ft 8”. A midget ey?

        Cummings looks like he could add a decent bit of weight to his frame easily. Could do with a bit of the sort of strength and conditioning that CHH, Crosbie and Bradbury have been partaking in.

      4. Gray has the weight , height and experience now. I wonder how he might be with a bit of the same Conditioning!

      5. Indeed Ben F, he is our most gifted lock by a mile when fully fit, i would of thought the WC warm-up games/camp would of done wonders for him & seen him reach his full potential.

        I don’t understand why Thomson & Taylor get the nod but Gray does not when they are all in the same boat.

        We are certainly not lacking quality in all of those positions so i don’t think that can be used a valid reason either.

        I think R.Gray like others has rubbed Townsend up the wrong way & Toony has banished him permanently for it, his arrogance is damaging the potential of the squad.

        Ford, Gray, Hardie, Dunbar, Visser, all players Toonie refuses to accept despite being better players than were available at the time of there exclusion.

      6. I mean, personally I think that’s a step too far! Surely we can’t go thinking that way about our own players and coach. It’s a bit silly to me.

        This might also be silly, but it’s possible Toonie is also looking at the possibility of playing Blade Thomson at lock. He’s turned out there before – and Barclay and Watson are two of our best players, while Bradbury looks the real deal with either Ryan Wilson or Matt Fagerson covering from the bench.

        When we want to increase our physicality, we could bring one of our non-starting locks and shift Thomson down to 6, with Laidlaw coming on at that point so that, if Barclay’s the man to make way, we can do a seamless captaincy switch. Alternatively, we could do it the other way round, bringing on Watson (who’d start all out massive games but maybe come on from the bench against the likes of Russia and Samoa) or Bradbury, switching Barclay from #7 to #6, and putting Thomson into the engine room, for a bit of grunt in the final third.

        Just a couple of options open to us. I think Toonie may well view Thomson as a player who can not only do a job at flanker and N°8 but also in the #4 shirt as well, partnering either Jonny Gray or Ben Toolis (with Skinner and Gilchrist also going for the #4 shirt). It’d be a good flexible option to help us vary our forward pack to match our opponents.

  3. I’m not happy that Richie’s left out – this can’t be his Scotland career over, surely, aged 29? – but Cummings has been going well so maybe does warrant a place in an extended squad. My guess is that Skinner will now travel to Japan as a lock along with Richie’s Brother, Toolis and Gilchrist – meaning we’ll take five specialist back-rowers.

    Steyn covers both 13 and wing so has probably crept ahead of Chris Harris now.

    1. I think its a shoot out between Harris, Taylor and Steyn for the centre/wing cover.

      In any normal scenario I think Taylor edges it, but being out for such a long time makes it far more of a dog fight

      1. My guess is this:

        – Steyn has crept ahead of Harris, meaning that it’s between Taylor and Steyn for the centre/back 3 spot. If Taylor’s fit and gets a game against France/Georgia he goes, barring Steyn suddenly becoming Scott Hastings. If, on the other hand, SuperDunc isn’t able to shake off his injury issues, Steyn becomes the prime candidate (a fairly meteoric rise) for that 13/11/14 cover spot.

        – The other spots are Pete Horne (covers 10), Johnson (obvs) and Huw Jones.

        – It’s possible that Townsend will take five props (it’s been suggested that Berghan will double up to cover both loosehead and tighthead) – but then take five centres rather than five in the back 3. This likely means another 13; either Hutchinson or Grigg, though Taylor or Steyn could feature. In this scenario, one of them is already in the squad; that player, plus Hastings, Maitland, Graham, Seymour and Hogg makes six in the back 3 overall. Of course, it’s possible that, if he only takes five props, Townsend will pick Kinghorn and thereby eradicate the need for centre-wing cover; that means it’s Pete Horne, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, and, realistically, one of Duncan Taylor, Rory Hutchinson, Nick Grigg and Kyle Steyn, picked purely on their merits as a #13.

        But then trying to second-guess Toonie is hopeless. It’s possible he’ll pick Hogg at #9, Russell at #15, Max Evans and Graeme Morrison in the centres and Chris Harris at fly-half for all we know.

  4. I’m quite shocked to see Big Ritchie miss out. All the other locks are good but all are in more of a workmanlike mould (nothing wrong with that either for locks) in comparison to Ritchie who has genuine world class ability and has been well on the road to recovery from injuries. Can’t beleive he’s at least not worth a look at in the warm ups.

    1. Both the Gray lads have something special but being so tall means that they go to ground early to avoid being held up. Compare their “go forward” with Hamish. Also, they are really slow around the paddock compared to some of the new boys.

  5. The trouble is Richie hasn’t been starting for Toulouse, so it’s difficult to pick him on form. I’d still pick him over Gilco or Toolis (or Skinner) but it would be harsh, and a personal opinion – heart over head perhaps.
    Both Cummings and Steyn deserve a place after Saturday, but I cannot help feeling that picking on the basis of one game, or even form over the last month, is short-termism. Class is permanent….etc.

    1. Steyn hasn’t had a bad game since arriving 3 months ago and Cummings has been playing well for a few months now too (better than Toolis or Gilcho )…At 22 yrs of age I think its a sign of class developing rather than an isolated patch of form. With Steyn I don’t think we can really assume otherwise.

      I’d also like Richie to be in the squad but I can understand the decision. Think its time for him to come back to Glasgow to improve his chances.

      1. Has he been playing better than Gilchrist & Toolis ? i certainly think that up for debate. The whole Edinburgh team faltered a bit towards the end of the season (Even Mata), so its clearly not an individual issue there but a coaching one which has had some people question individuals.

        Toolis & Gilchrist had the international experience & have been delivering in the big European games/Six Nations.

      2. You asked the question – I would say Cummings has been undeniably better than Toolis and Gilchrist… Furthermore IMO has played to a level that none of those guys have ever hit in their career. I know that’s a bold claim but what I have seen from Cummings over the past 2/3 months is pure class.

      3. I know they’re one-game, isolated examples, but both Gilchrist and Toolis have had better games than Cummings has in recent years – in the Calcutta Cup last year and this year, respectively.

        Gilcho’s also a leadership figure who’s captained Scotland before and was also given the captaincy for the 2014 Autumn Test series (at 24, with Laidlaw also fit and selected for the squad) before getting injured. If he hadn’t sustained that injury, he could well have led us into the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He’s important in that leadership group so I reckon he’ll be heading to Japan.

    2. Is there really such a position as starting for Toulouse?

      They squad rotate every week – he certainly started the Champions Cup QF and SF.

      He’s one of their first choice lock.

      1. I think Cummings offers something a bit different to Gilchrist, Gray and Toolis. Without a line-breaking 8, Toonie maybe sees him as a ball carrier, possibly off the bench.

        I would liked to have seems RG in this squad too. Duncan Taylor made it in on the rumour he plays rugby…..

        Who knows. Good news is we have depth.

        On the 8 point, I would like to see what Fagerson offers. There are some good back-rowers or going to the World Cup. Dare I suggest that Barclay isn’t nailed on and only Watson is guaranteed to go?

    1. I’m not sure that was necessarily his wording.

      My thinking is that the centres will be:

      12: Johnson
      12 (covers 10): P Horne
      13: H Jones/Hutchinson/Grigg
      13: (covers 11/14): Taylor/Steyn/Harris

      Not sure there’s a spot for Grigg because he’d be an out-and-out 13. Steyn I’d say has crept ahead of Harris, meaning that it’s between Taylor and Steyn for that final centre spot. The other three are pretty certain to go, I think.

      Obviously, it may not be as cut and dried as that. I’d have Steyn as a potential bolter for the final squad; if Taylor doesn’t get any gametime against Freorgia and doesn’t shake off his injury issues, then Steyn probably stands to gain the most as his ability to cover the wing is useful. Taylor can also cover full-back, and is also more proven at test level (he’s also better under the high ball and defensively in general).

      I think H Jones is certain to make it; it’s always possible that Townsend considers Hutchinson a 12 who can cover fly-half, or something mental like that. Alternatively, he could take five centres and only four 11/14/15s; that goes up to six when you add Taylor/Steyn and Hastings.

      In other news, Henry Hutchison’s been properly tearing it up for Australia at the London Sevens. He might not be a better prospect than, say, Maxi McFarland, but he looks fairly handy, and he’s got the name for it, too. We’re looking fairly well-stocked in that area, though, with the likes of Blain still to come through.

      1. I think Taylor also competes for the 12 jersey. Taylor and Jones have never played together for Scotland and I thnk that is a combination that will get tried out.

  6. Steyn is ,pretty much, a centre, and a very good strong straight running one at that. If GT sees him as a winger then surely Graham, Seymour, Maitland, Kinghorn & McGuigan are preferred. As a centre its more interesting, Taylor is excellent but not had many games recently , Hutchinson has been brilliant for Harlequins but untested at international level. Steyn adds a hard running option/alternative that no-one else does.

    Re Ritchie Gray – no way he is not as good as Gilchrist or Cummings.

    1. Taylor hasn’t played this season as he isn’t yet back to full contact training. Hutchison plays for Northampton. Other than that, spot on!

      1. Taylor is too big a risk. No game time this season so no match fitness and game timing. Even if he plays a game or 2 pre WC

  7. Oh aye, Northampton it is FF, I was just watching James Lang highlights. Indeed re Duncan Taylor, I’d assumed the Taylor on the Saracens bench was Duncan, it was Henry.

    As a wee cheeky retort, apart from spelling Rory Hutchinson’s name wrong, spot on

  8. Big Richie had a bit of run in the Toulouse team straight after his comeback from injury and a decent defensive shift against Leinster in the HC semi-final (although he did give away boneheaded yellow card). Since then he’s been a bit peripheral for Toulouse:

    27/4/19 – Castres (A) didn’t play.
    4/5/19 – Pau (H) sub. Played 29 minutes making 3 carries for 0m and 2 tackles.
    19/5/19 – Bordeaux (A) didn’t play.
    25/5/19 – Perpignan (H) sub. Played 40 minutes making 2 carries for 0m and 2 tackles + 3 lineouts won.

    If there was a challenge laid down to the players not involved when the squad was named on 7th May then that half v Perpignan (when Toulouse had the match pretty much won before he even got off the bench) is the only game time Richie’s had since then to audition. Scott Cummings was able to put in big shifts against Ulster and Leinster to show what he can provide.

      1. Wish it nailed it for me, a helpful article which evidences Gray has not been fully committed in any games. Being re-introduced slowly to the aggression of the Top 14 makes sense to me, no sense in risking a valuable asset. Good management decision IMO.

        Compare Blade Thomson in the Squad , barely back from Injury ! Still uncapped ? No questions raised !

        Richie Gray is big enough to fight his own battles, however on the face of it , there are more questions than answers in terms of his exclusion.

      2. He came back from injury at the end of January though so this is 4 months down the line. Was more heavily involved upon his return but his game time seems to have diminished as the French season reaches its climax.

        Form? Or possibly the club managing his physical condition? Neither would be particularly encouraging for Scotland with an extremely tough pool to get out of featuring 4 games in 22 days as well as (hopefully) knock-outs.

  9. Think both lads are in form and well worth their call up

    I think Toonie, despite all his tombola years, actually likes playing units together for Scotland.

    For all the talent of Hutchinson and Taylor they don’t have the same telepathy from playing for different teams that the Glasgow backs have together. The time together in world cup squads can build that telepathy but I fully expect a Johnson with Steyn / Jones combination on the plane to Japan.

    Similar story for the locks where club combinations will prevail and that seems to be how Ritchie Gray has been excluded.

    1. I think you have a point and I trust your judgement. But let’s be cynical for a second. Consider McGuigan and Harris , a tombola combination Toonie seems to want to retain . No need for player telepathy or club experience in that pair, they must have unique talents that superseed the familiarity factor. Russell and Laidlaw, the most important unit on the pitch only ever combine on match day, though that is a legacy that is likely to change. So we might see Price/ Horne and Hastings take control and Russell no longer fitting. One thing for sure , he is always the boss.

      1. Cynicism is fine! Price and Russell, G. Horne and Russell, and Laidlaw and Russell have played plenty of games together and been on a few nights out together! My concern was more with Hutchinson who may be excellent but hasn’t spent a second of game time with the rest of the Scotland backs. Also worried about how long it has been since Taylor has played at any level.

      2. Hutchinson played for the U20s numerous times, alongside Darcy Graham and Adam Hastings (and Zander Fagerson and Scott Cummings). He’s no stranger to these lads.

      3. McGuigan’s not really ‘tombola’ status. I think he’s shown up well for Scotland.

      4. Disagee Sam, McGuigan has been gifted a few tries ,but is average. He was brought in and we humilited / snubbed try scoring machine Tim Visser, 14 tries in 33 matches (48%) . The point being made was to put ‘tombola’ in context is Tonnie seems to want to pick pairs when it suits him and McGiugan and Harris are a couple of randoms. Visser was discarded with contempt for no apparent benefit , arguably detriment.

        If anyone can point out what Byron McGuigan brings to our Jersey that is above average , Please enlighten me.

      5. He runs good lines, is decent positionally and is strong in the tackle. I agree he isn’t up to Visser’s standards – Visser should not have been discarded by Townsend at all – but that isn’t a slight on McGuigan, only a measure of how impressive Tim Visser has been for Scotland.

        I’d say it goes Darcy Graham > Maitland > Kinghorn > Seymour > Lee Jones > McGuigan > Hoyland > Fife > Hughes. Steyn is the unknown quantity here (apart from Hughes who appears rarely); we’ve hardly seen Steyn at wing.

      6. By jove , I think we are almost in agreement Sam. McGuigan does all the things you list, but would we not expect that of most wingers in the Premiership, pro 14 , Top 14?

  10. Has Toonie actually said “no place for Richie”. Toulouse are still playing, Glasgow are done…room still for a reshuffle or addition in a week or three, in which time Cummings gets some time with the squad.

    1. Think this is important. May still be a chance for Richie. That said, Cummings for me stepped up a level in the PRO14 final.

      1. I agree, Cummings deserves his place.
        But add Ritchie after end of T14.
        Competition is a great thing in sport to bring out the best

      2. I think the boat has sailed , Toonie said he was reserving two places and has now announced his intent. R Gray , is out . We told Visser to go and learn to tackle and bloggers expected him to show up in the 6N . How nieve, he was managed out and Richie Gray who could frankly do with some intense squad time to bring him back to top form ,is in the cold. In my playing time we used to say ‘big guys are lazy’ and it takes a Lions tour or RWC to get them fully fit. I doubt much has changed . We will cope with the selection, they all bring something , but the one thing none of them can do, is match up to the tallest locks in the tournament. Gray can, if we are to progress, we need a giant IMO.

  11. Richie Gray is a bit overhyped on here. He was the token Scot on that Lions tour, a political move. His brother is better and I don’t see him ahead of Toolis or Gilchrist either. Let’s remember as recently as 3 months ago everyone was all about the Edinburgh pair. Richie makes the odd carry but I’ve certainly never seen him snipe around the fringes, win a turnover or make a dummy run.
    Steyn looks the business but did he get turned over a bit easily more than once at the weekend? Hard to see Scott or Bennett winning another cap.

    1. I don’t think he’s overhyped at all.

      At 29 he’s at a perfect age, with the most international and big game experience of all our 2nd rows.

      At 6’10 he’s 2 inches taller than any other option (GG 6’8, BT 6’7, JG & SC 6’6, SS 6’5). Against Ireland, with Devin Toner at 6’11, he would be a better line out option.

      There’s a reason why (I’d assume) he earns double what any of our other 2nd rows make. It’s not because he’s overrated on internet blogs, but because that’s his market valuation based on what he’s done in the game.

      I’d say we have maybe a 100/1 shot at winning the World Cup. For that to happen, we’d need all our best players playing at the top of their potential. While Cummings has future potential, Richie Gray at his best offers more and with a couple of months in camp ahead of the World Cup could have come out firing.

      Ben Toolis, while good in the lineout, is the player who offers the least of all the options in my mind. He’s the one that I wouldn’t have selected if the training squad had to be kept at this number.

    2. I don’t think he’s overhyped at all. I think the number of posters that are okay with him not even being selected for the training squad proves this. To my mind though, this is a big error….

      At 29 he’s at a perfect age, with the most international and big game experience of all our 2nd rows.

      At 6’10 he’s 2 inches taller than any other option (GG 6’8, BT 6’7, JG & SC 6’6, SS 6’5). Against Ireland, with Devin Toner at 6’11, he would be a better line out option.

      There’s a reason why (I’d assume) he earns double what any of our other 2nd rows make. It’s not because he’s overrated on internet blogs, but because that’s his market valuation based on what he’s done in the game.

      I’d say we have maybe a 50/1 shot at winning the World Cup. For that to happen, we’d need all our best players playing at the top of their potential. While Cummings has future potential, Richie Gray at his best offers more and with a couple of months in camp ahead of the World Cup could have come out firing.

      Ben Toolis, while good in the lineout, is the player who offers the least of all the options in my mind. He’s the one that I wouldn’t have selected if the training squad had to be kept at this number.

      1. Absolutely clueless if you’re knocking Toolis based on the lineout being his only strength.

        He is our best set piece forward full stop. Adds a huge amount to the scrum, maul and lineout. There is no better tighthead lock in Scotland. Whether there is enough in the rest of his game to get in the starting line up I’m unsure but make no mistake most good games Gilchrist has for Edinburgh are down to Toolis doing a mountain of grunt work in the tight freeing him up to carry and tackle.

      2. Will Ireland even pick Toner? He’s always looked to me like a big tall bloke someone stuck into a rugby injured. Ryan, Henderson would be my pick.

        Also in the likely hot and humid conditions, I think we need the fittest team possible…

        Fit as they may be, I can’t see the >120 kg players lasting 80 without a substantial drop in intensity, especially the older ones.

        That is so long as refs don’t allow too much time wasting.

      3. Toner is Schmidt’s go-to guy, but I, like you, don’t rate him. He’s pretty average, just happens to be tall. I wouldn’t take him over any of our locks.

      4. That “tall guy” offers more than probably any other lock at set piece & driving maul defence, if he can do all the basics outside of that well & keep his discipline then is he not the perfect lock for Schmidts game plan ?

        Your not getting selected as first lock at Leinster & Ireland ahead of the likes of Beirne/Henderson & Fardy if you if your not quality.

      5. “Absolutely clueless”? Take a good look at yourself…. In the end of the day it’s all about opinions and making out that your’s is the only one that’s worthwhile doesn’t say a lot for you.

        I wasn’t exactly knocking Toolis, he’s a decent international lock and would certainly be next on my list if someone else got injured, We’re blessed with a lot of quality at the moment though, and the point still stands that BT at his best isn’t as good as RG at his best. The nice thing about the World Cup is that there’s plenty of pre tournament time to gel players to the system and to iron out any areas of their game that may be perceived as weaknesses.

        One thing for sure is that the Irish will be pleased about this decision. In the lead up to the Six Nations match, their press were pointing out that Scotland had been weakened by the absence of the Grays and referred to BT as “lamentable”.

        I don’t for a second concur with that assessment, but I do think if we plan to win the World Cup with an all Edinburgh pack (minus Schoemann and Mata), then the big games at the end of the season (Munster, Ulster, Glasgow) only serve to show us that this unit isn’t as strong as some of us think it is.. The area where I personally think it can be most improved is second row, and the Gray brothers play well together.

      6. Your opinion is wrong SlowWalk90. You are of course entitled to share such outlandish opinions however (unfortunately).

        Ben Toolis has in this writers humble opinion been the most consistent lock all season, he is an outstanding set piece operator & in my humble opinion think that writers who claim otherwise do not know much about how the set piece actually operates, instead they choose to only look at the flash stuff and claim they know ‘what rugby is’

        Get a grip.

    3. Maybe he is , maybe he isnt , one thing that cannot be disputed, is he is the tallest man we could have selected , but didnt. Who says Size isnt everything .

      1. Ben Toolis is 27 years old. Richie Gray is 29. BT plays for a team that only came 5th in their pro14 section. RG plays for the team at the top of the French T14 that has one of the highest budgets in World Rugby;. I’ve never heard a suggestion of any team with deep pockets being interested in BT.

        RG has consistently been valued higher than BT by those in the game. We all have our own personal favourites (and BT is certainly a favourite on this site), but to jump down my throat for suggesting that they might be right is nonsense.

  12. Most prominent lock competition:

    1- Gilchrist (red headgear)
    2- Cummings (blue headgear)
    3 – Toolis (wookie-do)
    4 – R. Gray (blonde mop)
    5 – Swinson (raspberry headgear)

    The others don’t get a look-in.

    1. Best lock analysis I have read all season :-) Shows why JG should not be in the squad …. lol

  13. Cummings is a good call and Steyn looks like he’s really responded to coaching but I thought Richie Gray was dropped as a shot across the bows.
    He’s immense but he only seems to play well when someone’s p’d him off.
    Oh well. I suppose there are likely to be injuries before kick off.

  14. Cummings is more mobile and Dynamic than R Gray so fits the Scotland game plan better. There is also a more long term project for Scotland which is targetting the 2023 World cup and developing the right age, depth, experience profile for that competition. In that sense bringing Cummings in from the start of the training camp makes more sense.

    1. Good idea Sam. Instead of targeting the 2019 RWC, in less than 6 months, let’s start blooding a couple of youngsters and hope they come good for the 2023 RWC in about 5 years.

      1. Indeed. There’s a reason why it’s called the ‘2019 World Cup cycle’ after all. We can blood those players after the World Cup.

        Barclay, Ford, Laidlaw, Nel, Reid, Strauss and Swinson will probably retire from international rugby (perhaps Barclay will have a couple more years); players like Lee Jones, Maitland and Seymour will begin to wrap up their international careers, too.

        We then have young players coming in across the pitch (some have already started to do so) while McInally, Turner, Richie’s Brother, Watson, Price, Russell, Johnson, Huw Jones, Hogg and (with any luck) Bennett hit their peaks.

        It’s a genuinely exciting time, but we need to make sure all these players receive the best possible club coaching.

      2. I think Bennet’s test career is most likely over.

        At least with Hutchinson and McDowell coming through, the disappointing career trajectories of Scott, Bennett, Taylor and Dunbar don’t bite too hard. All superb players who reached their full potential all too rarely due to injury.

      3. It may or may not be.. he is still pretty young.

        I don’t think Edinburgh is a good fit for him, if he had stayed at Glasgow i think he would be a nailed down starter over the past years.

        He should move somewhere that is looking to play a more exciting brand of rugby, that is where he is at his best.

        Lets not forget this kid was considered the Scottish Brian O’Driscoll a few years back and was tearing it up at the WC.

        The same can be said for Dunbar & Scott relatively young, just need to find the right team for them.

        Its a real shame that quartet of centres has been ruined over that past 3 year by injuries, we were really in a golden generation when all were fit & firing.

  15. Irrelevant on thoughts on form not calling Gray up is short sighted. Surely if we have an injury or two at lock over the next 8 tests before the knock out stages he would be in the queue but he hasn’t been involved for such a long time he should be called up just to refamiliarise him with systems in case we need him.

    1. “The first block of Scotland’s preparations will see the squad divided into smaller skills and strength and conditioning groups to accommodate post-season breaks for those in the knockout stages of domestic or European Cup competition. The majority of players will then be given three weeks off and will return from mid-June to intensify pre-season preparations at Oriam, Scotland’s National Sports Performance Centre, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

      The pre-season campaign will be punctuated by three residential camps in Scotland and a hot weather camp in Portugal, before four home-and-away Summer Test matches against Georgia and France begin in August to complete the squad’s pre-departure preparations.”

  16. I can’t remember if it was on here or on the Scotsman website but there have been plenty of comments in the past about R Gray not being physical enough, going to ground too early, not hitting rucks etc. I’m not saying I agree with all the comments, just raising that perhaps it’s not quite as clear cut as some have made out.

    Having said that, he was probably playing his best for Scotland before he got injured in the 2018 6N (or was it 2017?). The Gray’s seem to play better when they are playing together so it’s a shame we may not get to see that again.

  17. I agree that R.Gray should be there and starting.

    Unfortunately far too many write off BT as a line out lock and don’t understand what he adds elsewhere. If that’s not you then fair enough.

    1. People have gone down a lot on the Edinburgh pair recently. That’s because the team have been tired out in general due to lack of rotation; Gilcho and Toolis have been very impressive most games and also haven’t played a game of rugby as recently as Cummings and J Gray, which is going to skew views of them.

      1. I agree Sam, some people just seem to forget the outstanding performances from the pair over the season & just remember the last 3/4 games they played when the whole team faltered.

        Its completely ridiculous and goes to show how shortsighted some people are, they cannot tolerate Edinburgh players getting the recognition they deserve.

      2. “People have gone down a lot on the Edinburgh pair recently.”

        An unfortunate turn of phrase.

  18. What are you talking about? Over the season Edinburgh finished 10th in the Pro14, 30 Points behind Glasgow. Why do their players deserve the recognition?

    The last 3 or 4 games that you reference were the crunch games… The ones most likely to compare to a test match or a World Cup game. Why should those be ignored?

    1. And what about Edinburgh’s Champions Cup run?

      What about Gilchrist and Toolis’s games for Scotland?

      1. Good.. But nothing that the players in the Glasgow team or other picks for the national team didn’t match.

        Look… GG and BT are good players and will do well in the WC squad if selected. But suggestions that Edinburgh players deserve special consideration for what they’ve achieved this season, or that anyone who doesn’t rate their locks as any less than outstanding is a lunatic, are perplexing.

        For the record, I’d probably have 7 of last season’s Edinburgh players in my starting XV. They just wouldn’t be in the 2nd row.

      2. Edinburgh’s Champions cup run…. the worst group in living memory. No offence to Edinburgh players or their fans but their season was a failure. End of story. Lost every meaningful game at the end of the season when it really mattered (included two terrible hammerings from Ulster and then Glasgow).

        I know the excuse will be overplayed etc etc. As I have said before, maybe the ‘best pack in Europe’ is a a load of codswallop. Yes very strong and a good set piece but I look at that Edinburgh pack and think ‘who would I like from a fan’s perspective at Glasgow over what we have got?’.

        Mata and Watson, maybe. The rest, not so much. At the top level I just don’t think they are as good as people suggest on this blog.

      3. Load of bollocks, teams step up there game big time for the European cup & are we forgetting Edinburgh completely brutalised Glasgow & pretty much every other pack they came up against, there weaknesses are in the backline & general team develop which will take time.

        Lets not forget who won the 1872 cup, those were “big” games that glasgow crumbled in.

        Only a ‘mabey’ for Watson & Mata ? be honest those players would be nailed on starters for Glasgow.

      4. Very well put, GW. I think Watson and Mata would be nailed on for Glasgow, and possibly Barclay too. Also Schoeman, and I think McInally would have the edge over Fraser Brown. The locks and tightheads would probably be fairly interchangeable.

        I’m also guessing from your name that you’re one of the Scotstoun faithful.

    2. No-one’s saying Edinburgh players deserve special consideration.

      I’d go for Gilchrist and Jonny Gray, with Skinner on the bench due to his ability to cover #6. Toolis would be third-choice lock, then Skinner.

      1. Still can’t see anyone saying that Embra players deserve special consideration.

        But here’s a wee evaluation of Embra’s season, because it wasn’t anywhere near as negative as some are making out.

        You know what? I’d still stand by the pack being the best in the division (along with Leinster), even if they began to tire towards the end of the season (Cockerill needs to learn the art of rotation). I’m also fed up of people saying that Embra don’t deliver in the big games and that they don’t deliver in the small games – which one is it?

        Embra, with poor depth in the backs (often an injury away from the totally anonymous Hickey or Socino starting), a scrum-half who can’t box-kick or provide quick ball, and Hodge in charge of attack, still managed to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals (where they gave Munster a run for their money), win the 1872 and come close to Heineken qualification again, until the pack and backs simply got burned out from playing game after game without rotation (which, when you look at the performances of the second string, isn’t surprising). This is a good achievement. Embra fans will be the first to say that the team fell short in some respects – but this is a far cry from the dire Solomons years when the team were atrocious (and when hookers weren’t coached on throwing).

        Embra have a decent chance at the Challenge Cup this upcoming season, so long as they play their cards right. It may not be the Ritz, but we’ll take it.

      2. In any case, I consider some of the more petty discourse on this thread unwarranted. It’s daft to squabble over whether plaudits are deserved or not, for example, or to compare apples with oranges.

        We should celebrate that both teams made it to the HCC quarter-finals, an historic achievement, even if neither quite took it to the next level. We should celebrate the other stuff, too: Glasgow in the final, Mata and VDW winning Pro14 accolades, breakthrough Scotland performances for Graham, Hastings, Johnson and Ritchie. Embra won in Toulon. Weeg did to Ulster what Dan Parks repeatedly did to my rugby hopes and dreams. Hoggy signed off with a final.

        This has been a fantastic season for Scottish rugby in general. Both regional teams consolidated on last year’s progress. The national team showed it can last a whole game. The greatest comeback in rugby recorded history at Twickenham. Scotland hat-tricks for Kinghorn and Seymour. Harley hit 200 Warriors caps, Wilson 150. Ross Ford, a Borders legend, signed off at Edinburgh, coming oh-so-close to a 200 of his own. Barclay returned to Scotland and showed us all what he can do. Mata, Schoeman and Zandbags made the Pro14 Dream Team. Price returned to his best. Russell amazed us all. And Laidlaw overtook Gavin Hastings to become Scotland’s second-highest points-scorer ever.

        This is a season that Scottish rugby can be proud of. It’s been fantastic. We should celebrate the achievements of both clubs and the national side.

  19. I see Richie Gray’s wife has just had a baby so that may well have played a part too. Still wouldnt be surprised once the T14 has finished to see him added to the squad. Thought Cummings had a stormer in the final but I would still have Gray in my world cup squad every day of the week

  20. If there`s no more injuries before the 31 is announced then I reckon the forwards in the 31 man squad will be
    4 x props JB,AD, WN, ZF
    3x hookers if Fraser Brown Fit FB, GT, SM
    4 x Lock including Skinner, JG, BT, GG, SS
    6x Back row. RW, MB, MF, HW, JB, BT

    only way RG or SC get in the 31 is if Fraser Brown`s injury rules him out then he might go with an extra lock instead.

    I reckon Skinner starts at 6 allowing two other back row forward on the bench.

    1. There is no chance we only take 4 props. There will be 3 for each side of the scrum.

      1. It is possible that there’ll be five props, with one (some have suggested Berghan) doubling up to cover both sides of the scrum.

      2. Suppose it is possible they’ll take 5 but highly unlikely. Given the increasing specialised nature of front row positions and the importance of the set piece it wouldn’t be smart to risk it. Imagine going up against the Irish with Berghan playing loosehead (which I can’t remember him ever doing) – could be a massacre.

      3. Is it unlikely. I think every single squad just 4 years ago had 5 props not 6.

        Has propping changed so much in 4 years? If anything props do less propping than ever before and are now expected to also be good rugby players.

      4. FF – I don’t think it’s due to propping changing massively but since the number of replacements changed from 7 to 8 (about 10 years ago I think), the need for props to play both sides has decreased and therefore fewer have high-level experience playing at both 1 and 3. Since there is a replacement for each on the bench now most of these younger props have spent their entire careers on one side of the scrum.
        All previous WC squads had players who were playing before the law change came about.

        It would have been ideal if Murray McCallum had had enough game time to press for a place in the squad as he’s the only one I’ve seen recently who regularly plays both.

      5. FF : I disagree , we should take as many props as necessary. It was only 2018 6N when we were bricking it about the ‘prop crisis’. I think most props would argue they are ‘good rugby players’ . I would not disprespect what the role involves, unlike many roles the prop is never idle over the whole 80 minutes and needs to have strength, stamina, flexibility in abundance. He needs speed over a short distance. They do handle albeit it is not a priority for the role. They would never use the word ‘Propping’. The only thing that has changed in the last few years is an appreciation of having good ones, albeit not everyone wants to accept that these odd shaped men are athletes and the cornerstone of any game of rugby.

  21. I see the much vaunted Skinner fails to make the Exeter team again. Semi final and final. He’s done very little for Scotland so why all the fuss? Bring back Richie. Given great service for Scotland and still going strong.

    1. He’s on the bench, and is probably there because he covers both lock and #6.

      1. So does Harley. It doesn’t stop him from starting. I suspect Rob Baxter doesn’t rate Skinner as highly as GT does. I’d go with Baxter’s judgement. He knows him better.

    2. He’s just back from injury a couple of weeks ago. Baxter is well-known for being loyal to a winning team and not tinkering for the sake of it. Hence why Cordero has not been picked, despite being fit and arguably their best back 3 player, and why Sam Simmonds and is also on the bench.

    3. He was brought on pretty early and did very well for Slades try.
      Showed lots of pace, a great fend, and a beautiful offload. Not sure any of our other locks could have done that.

      Pre injury he was starting so had the season gone for longer I would expect him to work his way back.

  22. You never know when injuries pop up in training. I think there will be a couple of changes before the first match kicks off in Japan.

    1. Good point , there will of be injuries, but I disagree with any implication that RG will participate in the RWC and beyond.

      The most likely reason is GT will come up with another random experiement. RG is now 6th Choice in his eyes , he may as well try something new !!

      Richie may (rightly) decide he does not fancy being sixth best. With a young family and a whole season ahead of him, take some downtime in the summer and tell GT to sling his hook with the ‘Dear John , keep yourself fit’ letter.

      Besides , why would he want to show up as the last man at the party. He has already done more in France than GT and his career is far from over. He does not need any of this, does he ?

      That would give GT the perfect reason to remain unaccountable for his original omission.He would tell the press he was right all along to omit him from the party . Richie needs more time to get his attitude aligned etc etc.

      We are getting there. Is there any ‘In Toonie we trust’ posters left.

      1. Richie was one of our brightest stars in what was a pretty dull Scotland constellation in the first half of the 2010s.

        It’s just possible that as the side has got much stronger since then, with more locks (and others) of Test class emerging, that some of us are clinging on to a certain loyalty to Richie because of his achievements a few years ago in a relatively poor side by Tier 1 standards.

        Maybe Toonie and his advisers just reckon either that Richie isn’t as good as he was or that he is as good as he was but that others are simply better than him now, notwithstanding what looks like a successful return from injury with Toulouse.

        I still think that at 29 Richie surely has more to offer at Test level, but at the same I’m wondering whether supporters like me haven’t fully appreciated that rising standards mean more intense competition for places, and that some old favourites have been overtaken now in the selection stakes.

      2. John : I dont agree . I played out that same rationalisation before posting, so I get what you are thinking ,but you are being too hard on yourself.

        This is the question I asked myself ‘ Can I see any of selected our locks being physical enough to get a contract in France. ? ‘ No , No , No , No and No. Not one of them has the brawn or guile.

        Even Townsend would have to admit it is a different prospect. (He traded on the reputation of French Rugby to promote his profile) .

        Look at the other Scottish Locks who played in France :
        * Big Jim Hamilton (one season) Plus a Year in New Zealand
        * Nathan Hines (7 seasons )
        * Gray ( 6 seasons).

        What is the common Denominator : Size, Physical, Hard, I will give up when the game is won, not when I am tired- Take no prisoners !

        If we are to progress deeper into the tournament we need one of the above in our side.

        When you look at what we will be facing , it makes no sense not to have a Physical Option.

      3. Gilchrist was offered a contract in France, and Angry Johnny is plenty physical enough.

      4. Was Gilco offered a Contract ! That was just newspaper talk during his contract negotiations with Edinburgh ? Paul O’Connell never played for Toulon, post his 2015 RWC injury. One French Newspaper leaked Gilchrist was of ‘interest’ but could not give details of a Contract Gilchrist re-signed with Edinburgh on a 2 year deal taking him to 2017. This is 2019 and he wont be getting one now , will he !

      5. He was allegedly offered one last year before signing on with Edinburgh, I think.

      6. Thanks for that, I get the point. which is he always ‘thinks’ he has an ‘alleged’ offer, from the highly paid PRO 14 sides, in his back pocket come contact negotiation time. Well Dont we all ! Agents, that is what they are for, creating rumour of competition.

        I would like to think he was offered a contract as well. I could then reply and say he didnt fancy it a second time. But I cant.

        So I am of the same opinion. Not one of them can stand in Richie Gray’s size 13 boots .

        Size is clearly not everything in Scottish Rugby.

      7. Absolute rubbish. The idea that Gilchrist only ‘thinks’ he has a contact offer is nonsense, and unless you’re close to Gilcho or his agent then you can’t claim to know what he thinks.

  23. I find it unimaginable that nearly everyone who’s posting here (and outside the blog) finds Gray an addition to the squad where we cannot do without… and GT thinks otherwise. Looks like he is trying to prove something. Hope he wakes up in time. I think we can do without Skinner to be honest. Easy. Some of the other locks selected might have what it takes. Gray proved he has got what it takes, and a bit more.

  24. Anyone else sinking into a lack of Scottish rugby induced depression?? The best I can come up with over this weekend is how does Hogg fit in at Exeter? Jack Nowell was outstanding yesterday. Do you move him to the wing to accommodate Hogg? Not sure. Watching the game yesterday, the Exeter move seems a bit odd to me from both Hogg’s perspective and Exeter’s (putting aside the cash money). They score shedloads of tries but in a completely different style to Glasgow. Will be interesting to see if it improves Hogg’s kicking game which may be beneficial to improving his Scotland longevity. Let’s hope so…

    How long till the World Cup…. not sure I can cope with 3 months of trying to predict who will start against Ireland!

    1. Furthermore, his Lions rival Liam Williams was impressive yesterday.

      He will not be the top Hogg at Exeter. But he knows that, which impresses me.

    2. Only a couple of months til the warm ups so I am sure you will be ok!

      I thought the prem final yesterday was an incredible match and from a Scottish perspective, Maitland and Skinner went very well. Skinners bosh down the wing and pop up to Slade was awesome. Maitland’s aerial skills have been looking very impressive and with our other back three options being very capable in that department I wonder if it is a tactic that may be implemented more for Scotland?

      With the exception of Fraser Brown (who I have not heard an update on?) it looks like we are going into World Cup training with a largely full bill of health which is a great starting point!

    3. Sevens, too – Scott Riddell just scored the match-winning golden try against Japan in his final game for Scotland Sevens before retirement, in Paris. A wonderful moment.

      Answer is either Hogg to FB and Nowell to the wing, or Hogg to FB, Nowell to 13 and Slade to either 10 or 12. But Slade is England’s starting 13 (though Daly hasn’t been playing at 15 for Wasps, but usually on the wing), so perhaps it’s most likely to be Nowell on the wing. Hogg is definitely the better full-back of the two defensively and under the high ball. I really hope he doesn’t end up at fly-half.

  25. coaches can’t win with some folk. Some folk who pick on reputation or something they once saw someone do years ago. Good or bad, that often one thing gets a player labelled for life.

    Townsend will pick the squad he needs to play our game. We need to impose our game, not attempt to be the big bad bullies up front – we do not have the squad to do that, and as Edinburgh showed even if you do (adjusted for the level of rugby) it isn’t nearly enough. It needs players who are quick back on their feet, quick back in position, quick to support breaks etc etc.

  26. I can see us going with front row units during the group stages.

    The heavier and bang on form Fagerson, Brown, Bhatti trio against the hefty Samoan and weak Russian packs and the usual first choice though lighter but no less gritty trio of Dell, McInally, Nel against Ireland and Japan. Thoughts?

    Two great front rows to choose from which must be a first for Scotland at the world cup. Bergs and Reid nae bad backup too.

    1. Don’t disagree…front row expert is not written on my CV.

      Ireland-wise, and a little ref-dependent, I’d like GT to pick the fittest and most dynamic pack possible…sort of an enhanced Glasgow-type pack, moreso than an Edinburgh-type…

      Our main (only?) advantage may lie in getting them puffing hard early on, and making them commit men to the breakdown.

      For that, I think Dell, McInally, Fagerson…potentially try Skinner & Gray at lock…Watson, Barclay, Bradbury.

      Possibly a power-game suits our strengths vs Japan, provided we can keep it tight enough…

      1. Backs pick themselves:

        Price, Russell; Maitland, Johnson, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham; Hogg

        Only call that can really be questioned is Huw Jones at 13 but he’s performed well for Scotland, let’s not lose the heid.

        Laidlaw, Hastings and Duncan Taylor (if he’s unfit, Steyn) on the bench.

      2. Think given Toony we are more likely to see Seymour start and Graham off the bench, now Seymour has found some form. It’s going to be a tricky call and depend on who’s going well in training I think!

      3. I don’t think the world cup is time to be trying any combinations.
        We should know our best team…and know which players can be swapped out with comparable players before WRC starts.
        Summer tour should be time to nail down the teams vs the respective opposition. Then just focus on fine tuning mentally etc to be game ready. No time to fluff around at WRC …nor are we good enough to do that.

    2. I do think that’s a wee bit over optimistic. Whilst I don’t disagree you’ve named the best front row combinations, substitute good for great and you’re nearer the mark.

  27. Interesting to see Rory Hutchinson mentioned on BBC website under breakthrough player. Ugo certainly seems to like him!

  28. I hope Townsend sticks to a mostly first choice squad & just tinkers 1 or 2 positions he is unsure of each warm up game.

    Now that the season is done, what would your first choice 23’s be ?

    Mine is:

    Dell/McInally/Fagerson/Gilchrist/ Skinner/Barclay/Watson/Bradbury
    Price/Russell/Graham/Johnson/ Steyn/Kinghorn/Hogg

    Bhatti/Brown/Nel/Gray/Fagerson/ Horne/Hastings/Maitland

    1. Knowing Townsend he will tinker massively with the squads and I expect we’ll only see the full first XV in maybe one game. He’ll view it as a chance for everyone in the squad to prove themselves before the WC. Probably the right call imo as we want to limit injuries as much as possible.

      Most interesting thing in the warm-ups for me will be seeing how Hutchinson and Matt Fagerson go in the national team as both finished the season in exceptional form. Also really want to see Hogg and Graham in the same back 3.

      My 23:

      Dell, Mcinally, Nel, Gray, Toolis, Barclay, Watson, Bradbury
      Price, Russell, Graham, Johnson, Jones, Maitland, Hogg

      Brown, Bhatti, Fagerson, Skinner, Fagerson, Laidlaw, Hastings, Taylor

  29. What about Jamie Ritchie? He had a great 6 nations and surely in contention for any match day 23 when fit and available.

    1. If i was to put him in it would be for Barclay as a ‘like for like’ however, while i think he is the in form player atm, i would back Barclay by the time the WC arrives to have regained his attributes, that along with his refmanship & better discipline at the breakdown is why Ritchie does not make the 23.

    1. All Toonie won in France was a return ticket home.

      Brieve = 0
      Then Castre fell before the final to Toulouse (Richie Gray’s team !!)
      Then Montpellier = 0
      Then returned to the Reivers, to win , yet again , nothing.

      Bring on the RWC , we can add yet another chapter , I could write it now.

  30. I notice Ryan Grant has been interviewed by the BBC with respect to the omission of Richie Gray. We will not get current players speaking up , however Grant , who has an achievement as rare as hens teeth for a scotsman, namely , a Lions tour on his CV, has spoken openly on what he considers to be ‘a mistake’.

    He justify’s his opinion by saying that since his return Gray has performed well from the bench which was a deliberate selection tactic by Toulouse to use him in this capacity . He goes on to state he feels Gray is a unique talent and is the best impact second row available to Scotland at this time.

    Keep talking Ryan, you are not wrong.

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Iain to look forward to Glasgow's huge URC final in Pretoria, after the win against Munster and skirt around the latest news of the week.
Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion